Alberta budget weakens environmental, climate monitoring: Opposition

EDMONTON — As Alberta prepares to release details on its new climate plan, critics are wondering about cuts to environmental monitoring and greenhouse gas management already spelled out in last week’s budget.

“We will have diminished capacity,” said Marlin Schmidt, New Democrat environment critic. “We won’t know if we’re meeting environmental standards or not.”

According to departmental business plans, the office of science and monitoring within Alberta Environment will take a five per cent cut next year, to just under $74 million. That’s the office that oversees the overall impact of industrial development in the province, including the oilsands.

That office will continue to receive a $50 million levy from industry specifically for oilsands monitoring.

As well, the emissions management office is to take a 20 per cent cut by 2023. That office is partly responsible for measuring and verifying greenhouse gas emissions in the province, as well as checking compliance with other environmental regulations.

“All of those things are significantly diminished,” said Shannon Phillips, a New Democrat MLA who was the former environment minister.

The province has not provided an explanation for the cuts or a response to those concerns.

The new budget also slashed spending at the agency responsible for approving and assessing energy development in the province. The Alberta Energy Regulator will lose about 22 per cent of its budget.

“Reducing both environmental monitoring programs and our energy regulator capacity does not make us a world-class resource and environmental manager,” said Ben Israel, an analyst with the Pembina Institute, which is a clean energy think tank.

The United Conservative government is currently examining the regulator’s operations.

Schmidt suggests the new funding regime will mean Albertans will have to increasingly rely on industry self-reporting.

“I don’t think that’s their job,” he said. “It should be the government of Alberta who manages and reports on our climate change strategy.”

Those concerns come as the province prepares to release details of its new climate change policy on Tuesday.

The plan will not contain a carbon tax. But it is expected to impose a levy on large industrial emitters for every tonne of carbon that exceeds a regulatory benchmark.

The details of how that benchmark will be set and what the cost per tonne hasn’t been announced, although most expect it to be $30 a tonne.

Earlier this month, the government told Environment Department employees that it was ending stand-alone offices for climate change and environmental monitoring.

Opposition members of the legislature warned at the time that the moves were a prelude to funding cuts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2019.

Just Posted

Thousands fill City Hall Park for Red Deer Lights the Night

With the flip of a switch, downtown Red Deer was filled with… Continue reading

Central Alberta skiers, snowboarders thrilled for start of season

Central Alberta skiers and snowboarders are finally able to hit the slopes,… Continue reading

CN conductors’ union gives 72-hour strike notice as talks continue

TORONTO — Canadian National Railways conductors, trainpersons and yardpersons have given strike… Continue reading

Auto insurance to climb for central Alberta motorists

It’s going to be tough on many businesses, says local courier company owner

Canada’s Salvation Army testing out quicker tap-and-go option at kettle stations

TORONTO — Canada’s Salvation Army is testing out a new and faster… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Nov. 19 The Mountview Sunnybrook Community Association will hold its AGM at… Continue reading

Man, 66 struck and killed by vehicle in Regina intersection

REGINA — Police in Regina say a 66-year-old man is dead after… Continue reading

Homicide unit investigating after body found in burned SUV in Abbotsford, B.C.

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — Homicide detectives have been handed the case after police… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $25 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — There was no winning ticket for the $25 million jackpot… Continue reading

Abortions rights advocates urge Liberals to turn politics into policy

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned for re-election on a promise… Continue reading

Impeachment testimony comes from White House budget official

WASHINGTON — House impeachment investigators met in private Saturday with a White… Continue reading

Football brings some peace to Sioux family after suicide

VERMILLION, S.D. — Teenagers Jashawn and Jayton Pease embraced in the end… Continue reading

St. Mark’s Square reopens in Venice, but water remains high

VENICE, Italy — Tourists and residents were allowed back into St. Mark’s… Continue reading

Most Read